Walmart CEO Puts Ball in Bernie’s Court: Congress Should Raise Federal Minimum Wage

Walmart President and CEO, Doug McMillon, announced today that Walmart will give hiring preference to military spouses, becoming the largest U.S. company to make such a commitment. This announcement came during a Veterans Day ceremony on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018 in Bentonville, Ark. (Gareth Patterson/AP Images for Walmart)
Gareth Patterson/AP Images for Walmart

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon pushed back on Wednesday against Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) comments at the corporation’s annual shareholders meeting. McMillon cited his start as an hourly associate, discussed “higher pay” for workers, and called on the federal government to increase its $7.25 minimum wage.

The board did not approve the resolution that Sanders presented on behalf of a Walmart employee that seeks to give workers seats on the board, but McMillion defended the company’s treatment of staff and touted the good the company does from the larger community.

McMillon, who now earns a $1.3 million salary and $24 million, including stock and other compensation, said he started at Walmart unloading trucks 28 years ago.

McMillon said Walmart has raised starting wages in the U.S. by 50 percent in the past four years and “invested an incremental $4.5 billion in pay, beyond [its] traditional annual wage increases, for [its] U.S. store and club associates.”

He also said Walmart employees earned $793 million in cash bonuses on top of hourly pay.

McMillon took a swipe at Sanders by calling the federal minimum wage of $7.25 “too low,” and he said Congress should “put a thoughtful plan in place to increase the minimum wage.”

At the shareholders meeting, Sanders labeled the Walton family the “richest family in America” and called on Walmart to increase its wage to $15 an hour. But according to the corporation’s inaugural Environmental, Social & Governance Report, the average wage for a full-time employee is $14.26 an hour.

The Walmart CEO also touted other employee benefits, including 16-week, paid parental leave; a $5,000 per child adoption benefit; and higher education assistance. Furthermore, he said that 1.1 million Walmart workers have affordable health care through the corporation.

McMillon said Walmart helps its customers and the larger community by funding the fight against drug addiction and hunger and even put fighting climate change on its list of accomplishments.

“I was 16 when I came to my first Walmart shareholders meeting with my dad who had taken some of the money he earned as a dentist and bought Walmart stock,” McMillon said.

“As I learned about Sam, his business philosophy, his family and the company, I was beyond impressed,” McMillon said. “That was more than 35 years ago, and I’ve never been prouder of this company and of our associates.”

“We’re not perfect,” McMillon stated. “But, together, we’re listening, learning, and changing.”

At the meeting, the rejection of Sanders’ proposed resolution was noted.

“While we don’t support this particular proposal, the importance of listening to and investing in our associates was reflected in Doug’s remarks and you’ll hear more about it later in the meeting,” Rachel Brand, Walmart’s executive vice president of global governance, chief legal officer, and corporate secretary, said.

A press release distributed about the meeting said that “shareholders approved the election of each of Walmart’s 12 director nominees.”

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